Holli Hudson is a 7th grade teacher within the Surry County school district. She's also an ASSISTments Ambassador.
I thought I was doing what I was supposed to do in order to reach my math students. Before 2017, I would follow the same routine to teach math: model the skill I needed them to learn, have the students try a problem or two with guidance, followed by 10-12 assigned problems for homework, students even had a few minutes to get started with me in the room to assure they understood the task.
The next day, when they’d come into class I would have them get out their homework, verbally give my students the answers to the problems, and ask what numbers we needed to go over together, as a class. Some students wouldn’t request problems to be done because they were embarrassed, or because they didn’t want to admit they hadn’t done the assignment. Several didn’t even complete the assignment.
This meant valuable class time spent waiting for students to request problems for me to demonstrate while those who didn’t complete the homework are scrambling to get it done. Then we would move on to the new skill. Rinse and repeat.
Then, one day, I was asked to pilot a program called ASSISTments in my 7th grade math class. I’m always willing to try new things, so I agreed. I had no idea that it would change my teaching practice and make me a better teacher.
As I reflect on the past three years using ASSISTments, I think of all the ways I have grown in my effectiveness and my confidence in teaching math. I could write for hours about how much I value what this program has given to my students and me. To save your time, I’ll just share my top three:
1. Time Management
Using ASSISTments frees up so much of my class time. I assign math problems from the Skillbuilders and Problem Sets from Explore Content, the database of problems within the platform, for classroom Exit Tickets or nightly homework. I am already saving time using these problem sets because I know they are standards-based, rigorous, and some are even open-ended. No more searching for quality math content!
Students complete 5-10 problems for homework and get Immediate Feedback. They are more apt to complete the assigned homework because of the Immediate Feedback they are given. They see purpose and growth in using the program.
I get immediate analysis of the work completed from the Assignment Report. I don’t even have to spend time analyzing student work and finding the most common mathematical errors because those trends come to the top of the report for me. The Assignment Report also includes how much time each student spent on individual problems, if they requested the answer, and even the common wrong answers to each problem. This means when students come in the next day, I am prepared to go over the most missed content without embarrassing students.
I also have conversations with students who requested the answers after spending long periods of time working, and I already know if I need to reteach the skill or if I can move on. My time is better spent by reteaching, reviewing, and enriching students because of ASSISTments.
2. Small-Group/Individualized Instruction
Sifting through the report prior to class also guides instruction. There are days when I don’t need to go over the homework in a whole-group environment. It may be that it’s just a small differentiated group of students, or even one individual who needs some additional support in a skill. The others are free to move forward into enrichment or mastering the next skill while I provide the support needed for those struggling learners to be successful in our class.
ASSISTments can also help me build a culture of Growth Mindset by creating peer tutor groups from the report. Once the skill has been retaught and students feel more confident, I assign the corresponding set of problems to allow students to show their new mastery of content. Thanks to the ASSISTments program, I can now cater to my students through more differentiated, individualized instruction based on data analysis.
3. Flexibility in Teaching Environment
When COVID happened everyone was scrambling trying to find a way to teach in a remote environment... I never had that issue. I was using ASSISTments and my students could pick up right where we left off from our last day of face-to-face instruction.
The only thing I had to design were video tutorials that taught new skills and clarified misunderstandings according to the reports given. I am able to use video conferencing software to share my screen with students remotely, pull up the report (removing student names to protect confidentiality), and keep my students moving forward.
The ASSISTments team has even designed videos for students and parents to show how easy it is to navigate their user-friendly program. In my classroom, learning never missed a beat. Even now, I don’t worry about the uncertainty in attendance because I know my students can continue to learn and grow in a remote environment using ASSISTments.
I am a different teacher than I was in 2017. Introducing ASSISTments to my instructional practice gave me freedom and flexibility that allows me to meet students’ needs at an individual level. This formative assessment program reinforces that not everything has to be a grade; it’s about the growth in students, the mathematical progression in the learning of skills. My students have more confidence in themselves and in one another which aids in building the culture of efficacy and growth mindset. ASSISTments made me a better teacher.